COLUMBIANA - For the second straight week, Crestview and Girard played a close, hard fought game that wasn't decided until the last at-bat.
Last week, in a regular season game, the Rebels used a squeeze bunt from Evan Nentwick to slip by the Indians 5-4 in extra innings. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they came up one run short in the game they wanted the most, falling 4-3 to Girard in a Division III sectional final Wednesday at Crestview High School.
Nick Krajcirik drove home the go-ahead run for the Indians with an RBI single in the fifth inning, while Christian Bello pitched four innings of relief for the win.
"It was tough to go out this way," Crestview senior pitcher Anthony Marnejon said. "We definitely did not play our best game tonight. I wish we could have this one back."
Girard improves to 10-17 and will face second-seeded South Range in the district semifinal Tuesday at Cene Park. Crestview finishes its season at 18-8.
Marnejon started for the Rebels, but the senior left-hander-pitching in gusty winds- struggled with his off-speed command for most of the game before leaving after five innings.
"The wind definitely effected by change-up, I was never able to consistently get it working." Marnejon said. "I also left some fastballs up in the zone and they did a good job of hitting my mistakes."
The Rebels grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI groundout by Dylan Hart, but missed a chance to add to their total when they left the bases loaded. Crestview would also strand runners in scoring position in the third, fifth, and seventh innings.
"Our inability to come up with a clutch two-out hit throughout the game hurt us the most," Crestview coach Matt Strank said.
Girard took their first lead in the second inning thanks to a couple of Crestview miscues.
After Zach Cochran led off with a single and advanced to second on a balk, Christian Bello tried to sacrifice him to third but wound up reaching base himself on a high throw to first that sailed into foul territory, enabling Cochran to come around and score. After Bello scored on a sac fly, Girard tallied a third run when Jordan Graziano scored from second on a two-out fielding error, making it 3-1.
"We've been pretty good defensively most of the year," Strank said, "But sometimes we will have a small bad stretch and tonight was not a good time to go through one."
Trailing by two, Crestview got one back in the third on an RBI single by Zach Thompson off Girard starter Nick Krajcirik. In the fourth inning, the Rebels tied it when Evan Nentwick scored from third on a successful double steal. Krajcirik-who walked five in three innings was removed earlier in the inning in favor of Bello, who would allow one hit and no runs in four innings of relief.
"Christian Bello came up huge for us tonight," Girard coach Aaron Alejars said," "Krajcirik was having some control problems so we had to make a switch, and he delivered when we needed him most."
In the fifth inning, the Indians got to a tiring Marnejon for the go-ahead run. With two outs, Kyle Harris singled to right and stole second. Up came Krajcirik-who replaced Bello at first base-and the right-hander lined a 1-1 pitch over the head of a leaping Dylan Hart at third to score Harris and put the Indians in front 4-3. Marnejon got out of the inning, after which he was removed for Austin Eskra.
"I was pretty tired at the end of the fifth," Marnejon said, "For some reason I felt pretty fatigued out on the mound today, more than I usually do."
"I give all the credit in the world to Anthony," Strank said, "He clearly did not have his best stuff today, but he showed his character by fighting through it and giving us five innings. He kept us in the game."
Although he had pitched a complete game the previous day, Eskra strode into the game with the season on the line and showed no signs of wear, mowing down the Indians over two innings to allow the Rebels one more chance in the seventh.
With one out, Marnejon walked, stole second, and advanced to third on a fielder's choice. With two outs and Marnejon standing 90 feet away, Zach Thompson stepped up and hit a groundball to third base. Everyone held their breath as Evan Standohar uncorked a low throw across the diamond, but the ball was scooped perfectly on one hop by Krajcirik to end the game.
"What you had these last two weeks were two evenly-matched teams competing hard against each other," Strank said. "It's too bad we couldn't have swapped last week's game with this one."
Alegjars is a former Salem coach.
Girard did not meet South Range during the regular season. The Rebels lost two games to the Raiders, each by one run. "I think Girard will be a tough matchup for anybody," Stank said, "They are very aggressive on the basepaths and do a nice job of moving runners over, which you have to do this time of year."
This was the last game for Crestview seniors: Zach Thompson, Anthony Marnejon, Austin Easkra, Andrew Batchelor, Brandon Jayne, Austin Oates, Evan Nentwick, and Derek Bable. "These guys were freshman my first year coaching the team, and they will always have a special place in my heart," Strank said. "They put in a lot of work to turn this program around and set it on the right track for the future. I am very proud of all they've done."
G-Nick Krajcirik (3IP, 3ER, 3H, 5BB, 1K), Christian Bello, wp, (4IP, 0ER, 1H, 3BB, 2K) and Austin Degregory.
CR-Anthony Marnejon, lp, (5IP, 4R, 1ER, 7H, 2BB, 0K), Austin Eskra (2IP, 0R, 0H, 0BB, 0K) and Zach Thompson.